Jeep will soon be very busy with regards to the next generation of its Wrangler SUV (known as JL and JLU internally). First up, Jeep will be officially unveiling the new generation of the Wrangler (2018 model year) at the 2017 Detroit Motor Show this week. Then, Jeep will be retooling a portion of its Toledo Assembly Complex to prepare for the production of the next-gen Wrangler, local union officials told The Toledo Blade.
Specifically, Jeep will retool the site’s portion that currently produces the Jeep Cherokee. The retooling will commence in April and is expected to be completed within six months. This means that Jeep will stop production of the Cherokee at Toledo starting April, and shift its assembly to Fiat Chrysler’s Belvidere site in Illinois. Local media in Illinois have been reporting that Jeep is currently in the midst of preparing the Belvidere site for Cherokee production. Fiat Chrysler’s Belvidere site used to build the Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot, with their production ending December 23, 2016.
Once the retooling of this specific portion of the Toledo manufacturing site is completed in November this year, Jeep will immediately commence production of the next-gen Wrangler JL, as disclosed by Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12. Assembly of pre-production models will start earlier to determine and iron out the possible kinks in the lines.
However, Jeep won’t immediately stop production of the current generation of the Wrangler (JK) at its Toledo facility. Baumhower disclosed to The Blade that the production of the Wrangler JK will remain as it is until March 2018. This means that the current-gen Wrangler JK and the next-gen Wrangler JL will coexist peacefully for five months until March 2018. However, people at JL Wranglers Forums have reported that production of the Wrangler JK will continue at the Toledo facility until June 2018. This means that the current and next generation models will have a production overlap of around eight months.
After then (either March or June 2018), the site of the Toledo Assembly Complex producing the Wrangler JK will be shut down to be retooled to prepare for the production of the new Wrangler JL. Once this second tranche of retooling is completed, production of the new Wrangler JL will hit a full swing.
In October 2016, there was a purported leak of images of Jeep’s new models – including the Wrangler JL – during a dealer presentation. As shown in the image, the Wrangler – still with a rough design -- still features a tall seven-slot grille flanked by large, round headlights. Its front end is marked by thin LED running light strips on the wide front fenders while the rear end features rectangular taillights with a subtle ‘X’ shape inside. Moreover, the rear end of the Wrangler JL still features a spare tire affixed to the swinging rear door. The next-gen Wrangler may feature a more lightweight construction and an eight-speed transmission.